Larissa Hadjio and I first met at the Voyager Shop in San Francisco. She was wearing a Toile patterned Boilersuit, the playful design paired with her natural, adventurous air was contagious. I had the Boilersuit fever. Our conversation led to coffee and coffee led to our recent collaboration/pop-up at the stores. I sat down with this charming designer to talk about London subcultures, the importance of community, and Aesthetic Research.
Firstly, we are so excited to have the Hadjio ready-to- wear line here at the San Francisco stores! Let’s begin from the start, can you tell us about your time in London?
I moved to London to study at Central St Martins. A most defining time in my life. I was surrounded by an incredible group of people, whom are still some of my closest friends. That period really altered my outlook in life a lot. I have learned to open the floodgates without preconception, allowing a wide range of inspiration into my work. A lot I hoped to find, I found in London.
Like most students, I lived with a lot of friends, most of them are still my closest friends.
We lived in a warehouse we converted into a home and studio in the heart of Dalston, before it became a clubbing destination. It was this fun vast playground where you could ride your bike around and have big dinner parties. It was here I started my label.
Were these friends also part of the creative industry? I want to hear more about this warehouse! What was the area like that it was in?
I love my new life in sunny LA, but that period in London is very special to me. We were quite fearless at the time. The factory was an old leather + garment warehouse, which I renovated with a strong-willed, Icelandic cartoonist and her sister, a modern ballet dancer. I lived with a few people over the years. Then before we moved to America, my boyfriend Andrew moved in and a friend who is a DJ.
Over the 10 years that I lived in East London I witnessed an interesting changing point in the East End. It’s similar to what happened in New York and other cities.
One part of that transition we experienced in front of our home were the London Riots. We were watching BBC live coverage of the happenings and looked outside of our window to see the madness underneath us. Actually Vice TV was covering the riots from the ground, unlike BBC who just had a helicopter above the streets. The coverage of the Riots was also Vice TV moving into serious journalism.
Do you have any experiences from this time that really impacted you as a designer? Any particular people who really influenced you?
I lived with designer Roberto Crippa for a few years, whose work is dark, slick and minimal; pretty much opposing a lot of my ideas. We used every opportunity at home to debate about aesthetics, design approach and process. Pretty much every time we had the opportunity to do so consuming an insane amount of coffee. Having someone so closely observe my creative output had a lot of impact on me. In a good way.
Though a lot of moments, people and experiences shaped my views as a designer.
It is the rawness that I love; I studied around the same time as designer Gareth Pugh. He celebrated the drag scene in a very raw and playful way and his boyfriend was curating club nights, a feast for the eyes. It fascinated me how much time and effort people put into their costumes and transformations. Some of that culture seemed to have vanished as the city became more expensive, pushing creative communities out. There is a beautiful book at the Revolver store : “Night Flowers” by a friend of mine, Damien Frost. He spent one year, every single night photographing the wildest of the night scenes “drag and night flowers.”
I never belonged to any one scene, but loved diving in between them. It allowed me to keep my eyes wide open.
Can you tell us about your transition from designing at school to beginning your own line. What materials were you working with in school and afterwards?
After finishing art school I felt I didn’t want to create objects to be looked at only, I wanted to create something that had a life on its own. My best friend Maymanah and I started the label, initially called "May and Sasa technology” (our nicknames) until we used my name after May went on her own path.
Initially we were torn between jewelry and accessories, our ideas took shape more quickly with leather accessories. I was walking down Oxford street and this beautiful Japanese girl walked passed me with a huge bag shaped like a bear head silhouette. I followed her for a block admiring her unusual style. Our first “Deep Sea" collection leaned upon the documentary “The Blue Planet”, narrated by David Attenborough. I was obsessed with David Attenborough at the time.
We wanted something playful without the gold embossed name tag on it. Maybe our naïveté helped us a lot. We looked at no bag for reference and simply created our own.
I like that you naturally were drawn to this walking art piece. It’s similar to how I was drawn towards the boiler suit. I couldn’t take my eyes off it!
San Francisco is where you began your ready-to-wear line, can you tell us a bit about how it began?
The production was hard to transport to SF. All my suppliers and my workshop were in London and the 8 hours time difference did not help. I needed certain machinery that I couldn’t find in the Bay Area.
Just before I left London I was wearing one of my Boilersuit samples (I would always wear my own designs in the showroom - a good excuse to design clothes) and an editor of Elle magazine stopped me on the street and asked me where I got it from. San Francisco was the perfect excuse to launch into ready to wear!
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind the shape and print of the boilers?
I took inspiration from Winston Churchill, the pockets and the more tailored look, mixing it with French Toile. Churchill would wear Onesies throughout the Second World War out of practicality. I love being dressed for the day in one outfit catered to many occasions.
What was it like moving out of the seasonal fashion industry to the more accessible and instant rhythm of ready-to-wear?
San Francisco’s forward thinking nature had it’s impact on me almost immediately. SF has an opinion about the possibilities for the fashion industry in the digital setting.
Being physically removed from the fashion week cycle made it easier to rethink the structure of how I needed and wanted to work. Spilling out season after season with the wholesale concept was not making sense and hadn’t for a long time.
Can you take us through a day in the Boilersuit? What does this look like for you?!
Tomorrow I’m going to a Christmas party after working in the studio then have a workshop review. My Boiler (or Siren Suit how Hadjio and Churchill call our Onesie), suit all situations, it’s a uniform for daily life!
In the past you have told me stories of your adventures in the urban city environment! The Boilersuit caters for this sense of adventure in the wearer.
Exactly! It’s a uniform, you can wear at all occasions. I think that a lot of people mistake the black outfit to be the only versatile one. I am a victim of black at times myself, I am as we speak wearing black on black AESTHETIC RESEARCH sweater, which is actually coming to the Hadjio line in January!
Being around the Boilersuit impels me to wear a more versatile uniform! Speaking of the influence of aesthetics, a part of Hadjio ready to wear is the AESTHETIC RESEARCH component. Can you tell us a little bit about this aspect of Hadjio?
Aesthetic Research is what this label is about. You do creative research all the time, in one way or another. Next year, which is actually just around the corner, we want to collaborate with different creative people who do aesthetic research in different worlds; Musicians, designers, sculptors. A news feed on Aesthetic Research.
I guess it ties into my time in London, inspiration happens all the time and you only create beautiful things when you are exploring.
I am curious; What the future for Hadjio as a brand looks like?
May who I started the label with, is helping to run the bag side in London. And I’m looking forward to our new product launching around New Year. The AESTHETIC RESEARCH sweat!
I look forward to seeing the Hadjio sweats! One last question to finish up! Why did you choose to work with Voyager and allow us to carry your unique pieces!?
San Francisco is so much about creative communities. When I arrived friends were saying, “oh you have to check out Voyager.” You guys have created a beautiful community around your stores. You find and work with designers like Svenja Specht ‘s Reality Studio. I have been wearing her clothes for years! Voyager does not necessarily buy only at fashion week, but are scouting out designers on your own device.
Larissa thank you so much for our chat! We are so happy and honored to have you featured in the shop and cannot wait to follow your creative projects and communities to come.
You can find Larissa Hadjio’s ready-to-wear Boilersuits at the SF stores now!
Words By Britt Maton
Images By Aubrey Devin